The throng of "Drew believers" wound about and through the former Woolworth store at Chapel Hill Mall in Akron as they waited Friday morning for their favorite funnyman to sign copies of his new book, "Dirty Jokes and Beer."
"At one time they were all the way down to the food court," said Debbie Carlson, general manager of the Waldenbooks store, which sponsored the two-hour book signing.
Asked how many books she expected to sell Friday, Carlson just said "lots."
The store had ordered 1,500 copies of Carey's work. At one point before Carey arrived the Waldenbook folk were selling about 15 books a minute.
The book signing was shifted to the larger Woolworth space to accommodate the crowd. The first 200 or so filled a curtained space at the front. As the crowd increased the line extended beyond the curtain. By noon, a line of more than a thousand people snaked throughout the space.
Several folks, from youngsters to not-so-young, were decked out in flattop haircuts and black-rimmed glasses, trying to look like Carey clones.
But there was no mistaking the one-and-only Carey when he showed up right on time, looking slightly tanned, wearing a blue zippered fleece shirt with just a hint of white t-shirt, and his trademark black-rimmed glasses and a broad smile.
He looked a bit stunned by the large crowd.
After standing on a chair to wave to the crowd he got down to work signing copies of his book, fliers promoting the event, and the odd baseball cap and even an occupied baby stroller (the occupant slept on, blissfully unaware of its brush with fame).
Ron Hopkins and his stepson, Josh Thomas, of Akron, were at the head of the line. They'd gotten to the mall a few minutes before its 7 a.m. opening.
"He's the Drew Carey fan," Hopkins said of Josh.
"I've been listening to him for eight years," said 17-year-old Josh. "He's really funny."
Next in line were six people from Atwater. Megan Strong and her mom, Susan Strong, intended to just get one book signed by Carey on their own.
"It started off being a Christmas present for him," she said, nodding at her friend, Ed Eichler. "But I felt guilty about not bringing him along." So she told Eichler Thanksgiving night and the group just grew. Others in the group were Bill Strong, Diana Flarada, and 19-month old Jake Willey, who may have been the youngest fan in the crowd. "He just likes the theme song," said Flarada.
Mall manager Robert Dunn was impressed by the crowd. "I've not really seen anything like this, and I've been here almost nine years," he said.
Carey has been promoting his book since it came out in September. He's done other book signings in the area, but Waldenbooks folks said the Chapel Hill crowd was the largest yet, even than the one at the Great Northern Mall near Cleveland.
Farther back in line _ they'd only waited an hour or so_six Tallmadge teens waited to see Carey. Asked why they were there, Justin Cook replied "I love the show. He's funny."
What makes it so good? "Kate" said Cook's friend, Andy Ringer. "And Lewis and Oswald are cool." Ringer was referring to Carey's compadres on television, Christa Miller, Ryan Stiles and Diedrich Bader.
Danny Mosholder, Nick Bezbatchenko and Steve Mosholder agreed that Carey was very funny. Asked if they had a question for Carey, Cook eyed the long line in front of him. "I hadn't really thought about it. I think I've got some time to think about it."